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Elephants Babysit

Wouldn't you be willing to babysit that little one, too?

gnomeandi/iStock/Thinkstock

As we'll see in the upcoming pages, a lot of the "surprising" things animals do with their babies would seem psychotic to humans. But leave it to elephants to develop a practice that isn't so much surprisingly strange as surprisingly kind. Turns out that just like the ponytailed girl across the street, young female elephants act as babysitters (or supplemental maternal support) to young calves.

While most female elephants will protect and nurture any calf in the herd, young females who haven't yet reproduced are most keen to act as a mother figure to the baby elephants. Called allomothers, this role is beneficial to everyone involved: Moms may feed longer and produce a better milk supply, while youngsters receive protection and guidance. The allomothers get a little parenting practice before they themselves start reproducing [source: Fishlock].

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